Chapter 13: The effects of ether

Ms Luxford tuned away from the class and made a swiping gesture at the board with one of her gloved hands. The writing which had been on there before burst into silver coloured specks like many miniature fireworks exploding simultaneously, and were swept off the board in the direction which she had made the gesture.

She then pulled off her gloves and, after placing them on the podium, took her wand into her hand and began to write on the board. “The stuff I’m writing down now is the basic theory behind the process I’m about to teach you. It would be a good idea to either copy this down or make sufficient notes so that you can remind yourselves if you ever have trouble remembering or if need to clarify something and can’t, or don’t want to, find me to ask.”

She finished writing and, while the class was writing notes, began explaining what an igniter was. An igniter, she explained, was someone who oversaw the process of raising your saturation. She went into some depth about the origins of the term, but Kason didn’t really pay attention, being too busy copying the notes from the board.

“Anyway,” he heard Ms Luxford say as he finished writing, “as I said before, to raise the saturation of a particular part of the body, that part must be exposed to higher levels of ether than are naturally present in that part. To do this, I could just send you all to someplace with naturally high levels of ether, such as the Astral Fields that are near the college. But apart from being highly inefficient, it would also be very dangerous, so the college uses these things to help you instead.”

She held up a little indigo coloured marble measuring a couple of centimetres across which she had at some point acquired while she had been talking. It looked to be a perfect sphere and glinted in the sunlight that shone through the windows.

“This is a ball of solidified ether.” She said looking around at the class with a serious look in her eyes, “It is currently covered in a thin protective coating which prevents it from turning back into gaseous ether, but once that coating is removed, it will immediately begin to sublimate and after a few moments, it will disappear completely.”

“You can’t just use the marble as is. If you did it would expose you to dangerously high levels of ether, so we will use a device to regulate the amount of ether that you are exposed to.” Ms Luxford held up a something that looked like a transparent container in her other hand, this container was comprised of a semi-spherical transparent section with an open end covered with a thin gauze of tightly woven, light purple threads.

“This is a small-scale version of a device called a ‘regulator’. It has a storage compartment made from reinforced, ethefied glass, fitted with an ether filter which will contain and regulate the amount of gaseous ether that can exit so that you are only exposed to safe levels. To use this to raise the saturation in the brain, you just need to have this somewhere near your head, within roughly half a metre, and the gaseous ether will disperse throughout the air near the filter in that radius. To begin with, you should not expose yourself to ether for longer than an hour every day, otherwise, the build-up of ether in your brain will go into unsafe levels. If this does happen though, you should visit the healer as soon as possible for treatment.”

Ms Luxford placed the two items she had been holding on top of the podium behind which she stood, “At the end of every week, I will test the saturation of ether in your brains just like I did today. At forty Cs and then every ten Cs you increase, you will be given a different filter which will allow more ether to pass through, allowing you to be exposed to more ether as appropriate to your level. This will allow you to progress at a steady rate.”

Ms Luxford looked around at the class again, giving time for those who were writing to finish. “Whenever these mini regulators run out of ether, bring them to our next lesson and I’ll refill them for you.” She said seriously, “You must also be aware that the process of increasing your tolerance isn’t something permanent. If you go for too long without being exposed to levels of ether around the level you have raised yourself to, then your saturation will begin to go down and your tolerance will decrease. So, you must all make sure that even once you’ve reached the required level, you don’t become lax.”

Kason finished off his notes with a small flourish for his own amusement and looked up at Ms Luxford, she had laid her wand on the podium next to the ether marble and the regulator and was pulling her gloves onto her hands again. Once she had finished, she picked up the ether marble and placed the regulator in the centre of the podium so that all the children could see it, “I’m going to show you how I fill the regulator using this marble,” She said, “This isn’t really necessary, but it is pretty interesting so pay attention.”

The demonstration was, as Ms Luxford had said it would be, quite interesting. The small marble erupted into a surprising amount of undulating blue gas as soon as it was freed from the covering. This gas was then skilfully confined by Ms Luxford using some spell and then forced into the semi-spherical compartment of the regulator before being trapped in place by the filter.

Ms Luxford showed the now full regulator to the class, which gave her an enthusiastic round of applause for her display, and instructed them on how to make it so that the filter would let ether through so that they could train.

“We have just over an hour until you should all be released for lunch,” Ms Luxford announced after she finished explaining. “In this time you’ll all do your first training session to increase your saturation. Also, remember that this should be your only session for today!”

She then made a grasping motion to the desk and more full regulators came flying out of it to hover in front of Ms Luxford. Just as she went to send them to the student’s desks like she had the ether markers, she noticed that someone had raised their hand. “Yes?”

“Ms Luxford, you said that we should only train for an hour to begin with, does this mean that as our tolerance increases we can train for longer?” The student who asked the question was a small girl with black hair who was seated in the front row on the other side of the room.

“Yes, that’s true, although you should first confirm with me if you’re planning to do longer training sessions.” Ms Luxford replied.

Harper leaned across from his desk to speak to Kason again. “That girl sure is impatient, it’s only the first lesson and she’s already asking how to train for longer.” Kason nodded, looking casually over at the petite figure who had asked the question. It was only the first lesson but she was already so concerned at only being able to train for one hour.

Kason sighed and replied to Harper in a hushed voice, “Maybe she’s just excited, I mean if we train for longer wouldn’t we be able to use magic sooner?”

Harper’s eyes widened slightly as if that reason hadn’t occurred to him, “That’s true! I’m gonna start doing longer sessions as soon as I can then.”

Kason rolled his eyes at him and went back to watching Ms Luxford giving out the regulators. When his arrived in front of him, gently landing on the desk with only the slightest noise to signal its landing, he immediately began to inspect it with ardour. He found, to his surprise, that the tightly woven gauze of purple threads was hard and inflexible, almost like it was a plank of wood instead of strands of thread.

Once all the children had a regulator in front of them, Ms Luxford snapped her fingers again to silence the outburst of talking that had begun. “Although we call this training, it is just exposing yourself to higher levels of ether so you’re not actually doing any work. For this reason, most students usually find the process quite boring, so I would suggest ‘training’ whilst doing something else to occupy your mind. For now, I will hand out your timetables for this year and then answer any questions you have about the college or magic or anything else you may wish to ask about.”

She then indicated that they should activate the regulators sitting on their desks. Kason looked around quickly, just to make sure he had understood the method to activate it properly, and then rubbed his finger once, clockwise, around the edge of the filter.

After Kason activated the regulator, he placed it on the desk with the filter facing towards him. Once she saw that everyone had successfully activated their regulators, Ms Luxford produced a stack of paper sheets from within the podium and began to hand them out the same way she had all the other items. While Kason waited for his to arrive, he played with the regulator sitting on the desk, batting it back and forth between his hands and letting it roll on its curved surface.

His timetable arrived after a short while, floating down out of the air to land on his desk. Just after it landed, it suddenly moved and swatted at his hands which were still playing with the regulator. Kason jerked his hands away from the regulator, surprised by the sudden movement of the paper, and looked quickly up at Ms Luxford to see her giving him a look that said quite clearly that he had been doing something he shouldn’t have been. Kason blushed and looked back down at his desk feeling rather foolish.

“Oh yeah,” Ms Luxford said absentmindedly after she finished handing out the timetables, “I should’ve said this before we started training but if you’ve got a saturation of over forty Cs, these filters won’t let you make good progress. When I release you all for lunch, can those who fall into that category please stay behind so I can sort you out with a more suitable filter.”

Kason heard Harper let out a quiet sigh, “So close.”

Kason realised he must be thinking about his saturation, which was thirty-nine Cs if Kason remembered properly from their discussion earlier. Kason thought slightly dejectedly about his measly thirty-two Cs of saturation, but then remembered that Kayla’s had been even lower and felt slightly better about himself.

Ms Luxford then jumped up and sat on the podium, her legs dangling down the front. “Right, does anyone have any questions they wish to ask then?” She asked lightly, swinging her legs slightly back and forth.

Several people asked questions, some about mundane things such as whether students were allowed to visit the city of Constantin while they were at the college, to more unusual topics such as were there any other advantages that came with raising the saturation of ether in their bodies. Ms Luxford answered them all in an informative and in-depth manner, leaving Kason feeling much more learned than he had when he first entered the classroom.

There was one particularly interesting thing that he found out as Ms Luxford elaborated on her explanation of the benefits of raising one’s saturation. “The higher the ether concentration in a part of the body, the more efficiently it operates. This is why mages who have raised the saturation of their entire body can live for many times longer than those who don’t. You will learn something of how this all works when you begin learning advanced biology in a year or two, but the most crucial benefit for you lot at the moment will be the increase in your ability to memorise and remember things.”

The class let out a collective ‘Ooh’ and Ms Luxford smiled at them, “As you increase the saturation of ether in your brain, you’ll begin to realise that you have less trouble memorising things. For example, many of you would probably have trouble entirely memorising your timetables in just the time available to you today, but when you get your new timetables next year, you’ll be able to memorise them the day you get them.”

A burst of excitable chatter spread throughout the class at this news, “That sounds great!” Harper said to Kason, his blue eyes shining.

“Yeah!” Kason replied, feeling equally exhilarated at the prospect.

“As I thought, I’ll have to begin long training sessions as fast as I can!” Harper exclaimed clenching his fists in anticipation. He then turned and called out to Lexia, who sat in front of him, “Hey Lexia!”

Lexia turned around and looked at Harper, giving him a questioning look.

“Do you have super memory or anything yet?”

Kayla burst out into laughter, evidently having heard what Harper had said. “Super memory?” she giggled, “What’s this super memory thing? I want it as well.”

While Kayla continued laughing, covering her mouth with a hand to let Lexia speak. Lexia gave a light smile and answered Harper’s question, “I do find it easier to remember things now, but not to the extent Ms Luxford described.”

Kason furrowed his brow and raised his hand. “Yes?” Ms Luxford said, seeing his raised hand.

“W- Well, if it works like that, is it possible to never forget anything if your saturation is high enough?” Kason asked feeling quite uncomfortable as people stopped talking to look at him.

“Good question,” Ms Luxford commented, “It might happen eventually, but as far as we know now, that is not possible. You see, having a high saturation only improves what is already there. For example, if you aren’t very strong, increasing your saturation won’t suddenly give you big muscles, it will just improve the function of what’s already there. The same works with our memory, us humans forget things that’s just how it is, so no matter how much our memory is improved, we will still forget some things.”

Kason nodded his head and made a note of this on the desk, just in case it turned out to be useful. “Of course, if any of you guys decide to go into research after you leave here, then this could be something you research. Maybe one of you will be the one to make a big breakthrough and discover a way to never forget,” Ms Luxford said smiling around the class again, “I expect great things from you all.”

Kason pictured himself standing in front of some complex magical equipment, sharing some findings with colleagues, explaining how he had found out how to make it so no one would ever forget. It gave him quite a grand feeling just imagining it.

The class then went into a lull, everyone seeming to have run out of questions. “Has no one got anything else they want to ask?” Ms Luxford asked, looking around, “We have about ten minutes left before lunch so if you have anything else then now’s the time to ask.”

Kason and Harper left the classroom ten minutes later and entered the hallway outside. It was relatively empty, with only people from their class making their way to the door that led to the nexus area. Kason, who felt a bit confused about this, pointed it out to Harper, but he replied that he was equally clueless.

On their way towards the exit to the nexus, they peered in classroom 1a and saw that all the chairs were empty, their occupants having presumably left earlier. Just before they got to the door, a voice called out to them, asking them to wait. They turned and saw Kayla making her way towards them.

“Hey, do you mind if I follow you two for lunch?” She asked when she got closer to them, “Lexia is staying behind because she needs to get her new filter and everyone else I know is in a different class”

“Yeah, that’s fine, we don’t mind,” Harper replied, Kason also nodded to indicate his approval. Kayla smiled at them upon hearing their answer and skipped over to stand next to Harper as they made their way through the door to the nexus.

They walked to the dining hall in the junior dorm building, found a table, and sat down to eat. While he was eating, Kason suddenly remembered that he hadn’t checked his timetable at all since he received it. He fished it out of one of the pockets of his uniform and placed it on the table next to his bowl which contained some orange coloured soup.

Harper, who was sitting next to him, spotted what he was doing and leaned over to have a look as well. The timetable was set out as a table, with days labelling the rows and times labelling the columns, there were a total of five lesson slots each day, each being an hour and a quarter long and one slot in the middle for lunch. Although there were five slots per day, Kason noticed that at least one of these slots was empty each day, he wondered what they were for.

“I don’t really know why we have timetables this year,” Kayla said from the opposite side of the table, evidently having spotted what it was they were looking at, “We have all our lessons in the same classroom so it’s not like we’re gonna get lost somewhere in between.”

Kason shrugged but Harper, unexpectedly, gave an answer, “It’s so we can get us used to using them. We’ll be in different classrooms for each class from next year onwards so it’s better to get used to having a timetable now instead of having to adapt suddenly next year.”

Kayla shot a shocked look across the table at Harper, “How did you know that?” She asked

“My brother is in the senior division. He said that’s how it works.”

“Cool, has he said anything else about the junior division? Did he tell you how all the years work? Do you have all your optional subjects planned out?” Kayla began firing a barrage of questions at Harper, who tried his best to answer them all. Kason couldn’t help but let out a chuckle at this scene because Harper was usually the one to be firing rapid strings of questions at other people. It would do him good to have a taste of his own medicine, he thought slightly vindictively.

This is the new version of chapter 13. It is a combination of the previous chapters 13 and 14. If anyone wishes to see old chapters, then please visit the Chapter Archives accessible from the ToC.



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